Santa Cruz fights over peace park

The Associated Press
Monday April 08, 2002

SANTA CRUZ — A proposed peace park has spawned a heated battle among residents, prompting the city council to hire a professional facilitator to calm tensions. 

The bitter debate started when the city approved $93,000 to improve the downtown Town Clock traffic island and dedicate it to lifelong peace activist Doug Rand, who died of a brain tumor two years ago. 

One side of the debate wants to memorialize Rand and civilian war casualties through an interpretive display containing war rubble. 

The others don’t want public funds devoted to a park they say isn’t really about peace, but is actually an officially sanctioned anti-war demonstration. 

Since the park was approved, the city has received negative e-mails, calls and letters about the proposed park. Critics have collected 500 signatures demanding more discussion. 

Above all, critics say, the park is suffering from bad timing. Even before the park was proposed, some Santa Cruz residents were furious at the council’s consideration of an anti-war resolution following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which did not pass. 

Since the attacks, many peace activists say they’ve been forced to defend themselves against charges of being unpatriotic. 

But others say that extreme pacifism is a part of life in Santa Cruz. 

“We have a surfing sculpture, a golf course, a skate park,” said Sue Powell of the city-appointed Peace Park Committee. “A peace park is just one part of the fabric of our city. The belief behind it is the belief of a segment of the community. It belongs here.”